Party makes deep forays by winning four seats
The result in Telangana is a bolt from the blue for the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which had registered a spectacular victory in the Assembly elections a few months ago and was hoping to play a greater role in national politics.
The party supremo, K. Chandrashekahar Rao, decoupled the Assembly election from the Lok Sabha election, and in retrospect, that move seems sensible in view of the popular response now. Though there was no BJP wave in this new State, the party made very deep forays by winning four seats, that too in north Telangana, a TRS stronghold.
The Congress, which registered a poor performance in the Assembly election with many of its MLAs defecting to the TRS after that, made an impressive comeback with three seats. The game plan of the ruling party to emerge as a key player in national politics remains unfulfilled with the BJP securing a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. Most important, the TRS failed to sweep the election, though it did emerge as a major winner with nine seats.
Table 1: Vote preference by caste and community
In the constituencies where the BJP won, it seems that much of the traditional Congress and TRS votes shifted to the party. A comparison of the community-wise vote preference data from the survey conducted during the Lok Sabha election and the 2018 Assembly election reveals that the TRS losses were the greatest among upper caste voters who seem to have shifted in large numbers towards the BJP and the Congress. The BJP’s vote share among upper castes went up three times in a span of just six months, from 13% to 41% and the Congress’s by seven percentage points from 25% to 32%. The BJP seems to have gained considerably among the Reddy and OBC communities, with the Congress and TRS registering steep losses. The only communities the BJP could not make inroads into were the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Muslim. While the TRS seems to have done much better among the STs compared with the 2018 election, the Congress made gains among the SCs and Muslims. What then explains the BJP’s sudden surge in Telangana? Was there a Modi factor at play? To some extent, yes, but it was not as strong as in the rest of the country.
In a State where the Congress has been a more dominant party than the BJP, one would have expected Rahul Gandhi and not Narendra Modi to be the prime ministerial choice of a greater number of voters. When voters were asked about which leader they would like to see as the next Prime Minister, more voters chose Mr. Modi over Mr. Gandhi. About two-fifths (38%) preferred the former and over one-fourth (27%) the latter. But at the same time, the survey found that not all of these Modi supporters ended up voting for the BJP. Only 44% did. A high proportion of the rest voted for the TRS.
Table 2: BJP was ahead of the TRS and the Congress among the college educated and economically well off voters
What is more, another indication that the Modi factor may not have been the real reason why the BJP did well in Telangana comes from voter responses to another question. Asked if they would have voted for the same party that they voted for in the election if Mr. Modi was not the prime ministerial candidate, close to three-fifths of the BJP voters said that they would have still voted for that party. Less than one-fifth said they would have changed their vote. This proportion is much less than what Lokniti’s survey found in other States. The survey found Mr. Modi’s appeal to be the greatest among college-educated voters and the economically well-off, and this seems to have resulted in the BJP getting a higher share of votes among these two voter segments than the Congress and the TRS.
TRS, to its credit, was able to retain its support among the farming community. Farmers had been the backbone of the TRS victory during the Assembly election and continued to support the party in this election as well. In the 2018 election, the Lokniti survey found over half the farmers to have voted for the TRS. The current survey threw up a similar figure, indicating that most of the erosion in the party’s vote share since the Assembly election seems to have happened among non-farmers.
(The author teaches political science at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad)
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